Love where you live!
LA MESA -- This was a week for small town losses.
But out here in real small town America, La Mesa also suffered two losses that were all too real.
Don Sanfilippo, a local man, and Ben Davidson, a nationally-known athlete who over the years quietly became a part of the backbone of La Mesa, his adopted hometown, both passed away.
"They were both people who really worked for this community,'' La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid said of Sanfilippo and Davidson.
Madrid described Sanfilippo as the "prototypical immigrant, a man who just worked his tail off to make something of himself and his community.''
Throughout his life, Sanfilippo maintained a strong accent from his native Italy and managed to infuse La Mesa Village with the flavor of Italy and an energy that still drives local life. A big supporter of the now, long-established La Mesa car shows, his own vintage vehicle was always part of the local festivities.
In recent years, as his health declined, his wife Anna managed to keep the restaurant going, but Don's presence was missed by the Village merchants.
The Village Merchants Association has dedicated the car show in his name going forward.
Ben Davidson ( right), as an athlete, was a larger than life character. Being a strong part of the dreaded Oakland Raiders, one might think San Diego was the last place a retired Raider would choose as home.
But Davidson attacked retired life with the same gusto he brought to the football field. Madrid said he always answered calls for help, turning up at local fundraisers and lending his name and hulking presence to good community efforts.
"I've never met anyone who was more than opposite of his reputation,'' Madrid said. "He was kind and generous. No big ego. If you asked him to lend a hand, he would show up and do whatever he could.''
Even as he struggled against illness, Davidson would leave his Mt. Helix home and appear at Chamber of Commerce events like The Taste of La Mesa. Invariably, he would be approached by Charger fans who knew of his football reputation for toughness and were instantly disarmed by an intelligent, warm and charming man who happed to stand 6-6 or so and liked handlebar mustaches.
Both Sanfilippo and Davidson will be honored at a future City Council meeting, Madrid said.
Ironically, in a week when the symbol of small town America left the stage, two real examples of what truly makes small towns great, left us.
They will be missed.